Mac vs. PC – Let The Flame Wars Begin

Mac is not better than PC. It’s just different. If you think otherwise you really need to check your sources.

I’ve tried to stay out of the moronic Mac vs. PC debackle as much as I can but a conversation I overheard yesterday finally pushed me over the edge so now I’m not keeping my mouth shut any more:

Here are some facts:

  • Macs are far less stable and secure and far more buggy and prone to crashes than people are willing to admit
  • Windows Vista doesn’t really have any compatibility problems
  • Mac is not the industry standard for video editing
  • There is no discernible difference in workload, efficiency or quality of the end result whether you are on a Mac or a PC
  • The days when Mac was the only platform you should use for digital imaging etc are long gone (as in early 1990’s long gone)
  • The fact that you own an Apple product (iPod, iPhone, iMac, iRack whatever) does not make you cooler, smarter, better or more skilled than anyone else

If you’re a Mac user you are probably running frantically around the house whiping away the foam collecting around your mouth while you look for your Anti-PC-User Emergency Kit. If so just calm down and take a deep breath: I don’t have anything against you nor your choice of operating system – I just don’t like being looked down on or ridiculed by your kind because of my preference, especially when the arguments they present as reasons for using Mac instead of PC are nothing but advertising propaganda from Mr. Jobs and his staff.

What started it all

Anyways, back to my story: We just picked up a large video editing contract which includes working with a large variety of content providers (videographers) and consolidating all their differing content into a cohesive show. Unfortunately the content providers are amateurs who don’t know too much about video editing and especially industry standards when it comes to output. As a result we got a myriad of different formats and compressions that we needed to work with.

Normally this wouldn’t be a problem but because almost all of these videographers work on Final Cut Pro or iMovie and none of them know anything about export or compression other than how to publish videos to YouTube it quickly became a nightmare. You see when you use the click and “it just works” approach promoted by Apple, you get a video format that only works on Macs. This is because it’s quicker to export Mac native formats than to convert the video to an industry standard format like DV/DVCPRO. Unfortunately the videographers are under the impression that Mac is the de facto industry standard and therefore that if the file doesn’t play it is because we are stupid PC users. This couldn’t be farther from the truth:

The industry standard is AVID.

When we tried to explain this issue to the people we are working with we got the following mind-numbing and infuriating response (from a Mac user of course):

The reason it doesn’t work is because you are on a Vista PC. Microsoft doesn’t follow standards and doesn’t work. Switch to a Mac!

Right. I don’t even know where to start with this. First of all, the problem is caused by the videos being encoded using a proprietary Mac codec that is about as non-standard as you can get. In fact the codec only works in Final Cut Pro, nowhere else. And like I said, FCP is not the industry standard. Seccondly Microsoft doesn’t actually make pro video editing software: We use Adobe Premiere CS3. So if there was a problem with the software it would be Adobe’s fault, not Microsoft. Thirdly switching to Mac to solve the problem is about as good advice as telling someone whose tire you just slashed to buy a new car.

Don’t believe everything you hear

At the root of all this bullshit is the ingenious if misleading advertising campaign Apple has been running for the last 15 years claiming that their software “just works” and is far supperior to any other platform. If you go back about two decades, Mac ruled the design world because of it’s supperior graphics handling capabilities. But those days are long gone and today Mac and PC compete on an even playing field in this respect. Case in point: The industry standard for design software is the Adobe Creative Suite which runs identically on both platforms.

Today there are only two real differences between a Mac and every other computer on the planet:

  1. It uses Mac OS
  2. It contains a chip whose sole purpose it is to tell the Mac OS that this is a genuine Mac

In fact Mac OS works fine on any computer as long as you trick it to not look for that chip. But while Microsoft is a software company, Apple is a hardware company and they need to have some way of forcing their customers to buy their hardware so they tie their operating system to their hardware using that chip. That’s why you can run Windows on a Mac but not vice versa. In the real world this would be called monopolization and unfair business practice but for some unknown reason noone has really spoken up about this and tested it in court.

“It just works*”

The Mac slogan “it just works” should come with an asterix:

By “works” we mean that as long as your system is operational it is unlikely to crash. However if it does crash you are likely to loose 100% of your data and the lost data is unrecoverable. Also, we may choose to change our operating system or platform at any time in which case you need to buy all new hardware and software if you want to continue being part of our exclusive club.

Case in point: My friend Anthony has a G4 Mac that he used for video editing. One day his system stopped working. Further investigation showed it was no longer working becuase the logic board was dead. So he took it to the Mac store and asked them to fix it. The guy at the store looked at the computer and told him they no longer support the chipset (Mac had just switched to the new Intel chips) so he would have to switch out the whole logic board to the new chipset. The cost? $2000 (more than the cost of a new Mac). After much back and forth Anthony ended up buying a new iMac instead. But when he got home a new nasty surprise was in store: None of his expensive software worked in his new iMac. A quick call to the store uncovered the unbelieveable answer: With the new chipset comes a whole new operating system that is not compatible with the old software. So he had to go out and buy new versions of his old software just to be able to open his old files.

Now imagine if Microsoft had pulled this kind of crap on their clients.

Vista Sucks

Since it’s release more than 2 yars ago Windows Vista has gotten an incredible ammount of flack from everyone from the tech press to pundits to my grandfather’s best man twice removed. Surprisingly about 99% of this flack is unwarranted nonsense generated by idiots who have never tried the operating system or don’t understand how computers work.

One of the main attacks on Vista is that it isn’t compatible with hardware. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read articles about how nothing works, how the drivers are full of bugs and that people are downgrading to XP. Well here’s some food for thought:

If the driver doesn’t work it is because the company that made the driver didn’t do a good enough job. And the drivers are made by the hardware manufacturer, not Microsoft!

So when people say their hardware doesn’t work and the drivers are crap and point their fingers at Microsoft they are blaming the wrong company. To put it in perspective think about this: If you bought a headset for your iPhone that said “iPhone Compatible” but didn’t work, who would you blame? The headphone manufacturer of course. It’s the same with driver incompatibility.

People have just gotten too used to blaming Microsoft for everything except Global Warming.

PCs crash all the time

More than anything what kills me is when people tell me that PCs crash all the time. Let me tell you something: I have 6 PCs running everything from Windows ME to Windows Vista Ultimate. In the last 6 years all my PCs combined have crashed maybe 10 times and in almost every case it was either due to hardware failure (mostly dead hard drives) or ill advised experiments at rewriting the registry or bios (aka. me being an idiot). With properly installed hardware and software the Windows platform is incredibly stable. And when something goes wrong it’s easy to find out why and how to fix it.

In answer to this ground breaking CNN worthy news I can hear all my Mac friends yelling “but you’ll get infected by viruses!”. I haven’t had a virus in 10 years. Why? Because I have a $20 router between my home network and the outside world and I don’t download dubious files from the net or my inbox. So here’s my response: I can kill your Mac in 30 seconds flat! And if I do, all your data is unrecoverable. You can’t do that to a PC without a huge magnet or a sledge hammer.

Your choice of Operating System should never define you

What never seizes to amaze me is the willingness of Mac users to let their choice of operating system define them. They seem to think that because they are using a Mac they are somehow better and different from the rest of the computer using world. Which is strange seeing as Mac is the most uniform computer brand out there: You have zero choice when it comes to customizability or identity – everything looks the same. And if you use any of the famed iLife programs the results invariably have that Mac cookie-cutter look. The grim reality is that in the end it is your creativity that matters, not what computer or operating system you use. You can make stunning artwork with a PC form 1993 and total crap with the most high-end Mac available – it’s all up to you.

So here’s the conclusion (forward all hate mail to my summer house at 1 Pennsylvania Avenue):

Macs are great if you don’t want to spend time learning how a computer work or if you want to live a cookie cutter lifestyle. If you want creative input you need to upgrade to 3rd party software such as Adobe’s Creative Suite in which case you can get a far better PC for the same price.

And before you start barfing up that ever popular “Final Cut Pro is vastly supperior to Premiere Pro” crap consider this: The reason Adobe is re-releasing Premiere Pro for Mac is because Mac users are asking for it. And Premiere Pro was designed by the same people that created FCP.

In the end I don’t care what you use. All that matters is what you produce. But don’t tell me you are better than me because you spent more money on your computer. The only thing you show with such a statement is your narrowminded inability to think critically. Sorry, but that’s how the cookie crumbles.

Flame on!